Tonight Lydia Lunch at Chop Suey
posted by November 12 at 10:21 AMon
Lydia Lunch scares the crap out of me. Because she is not afraid to be bad.
Not bad in the transgressive sense – although that is part of her mystique. If her brutal “predator’s diary,” Paradoxia, is to be believed, Lydia has never met a person or a taboo she wouldn’t violate. No, her work impels me because she is fearless about creating, and then sharing (inflicting? expelling?) her art – music and poetry, prose and cinema – on the world. I believe that’s why better-known peers like Thurston Moore and Exene Cervenka hold her up as iconic: While the rest of us fret over the placement of each comma, chromaticism, or close-up, she detonates explosions and dances in the debris, time and time and time again.
If she were a surgeon, one imagines Dr. Lunch would be renown for stopping mid-operation and leaving patients sliced open, with their disease-ridden innards splayed haphazardly in a sterile pan. Not because she has lost interest in the procedure, but because the new arrangement of the human condition excites her so much more than trying to regain some semblance of normality. Besides, putrid things need air to really kick up a stink.
And yet, an ability to twist and pervert the familiar is part of Lunch’s charm. As a music fan, I’m especially partial to her periodic flirtations with jazz and lounge music. Her particularly bad – in the sense that they play by established rules – records. With their vampy come-ons and sleazy arrangements, albums like Queen of Siam (1979) and Smoke in the Shadows (2004) and the excellent Champagne, Cocaine, and Nicotine Stains EP, put the lure is lurid. These morsels bait the trap. Next thing you know, you’re diving head first into the meat grinder of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and 8-Eyed Spy, and harassing the staff at Scarecrow Video to get a bootleg DVD of Vortex, turning tricks on Aurora Avenue to by that first edition of Adulterers Anonymous.
Lydia is not performing with a band tonight. If you want to hear her caterwauling through “Orphans” and “The Closet,” you’ll have to slap No New York or that battered copy of Hysterie on the stereo instead. This is a spoken word program. But that is no excuse to skip the Chop Suey performance. If you entertain any sort of artistic aspirations, seeing Lydia Lunch is the shortest path between you and the act of creation. She will push you in front of your muse like a subway barreling down the track, and coolly smoke a cigarette while watching to see if the train flattens you or propels you down the line to the next station. Her medium of choice makes little difference. Lydia Lunch does not need to hide behind a guitar to frighten people. She’s bad.